Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel
Isaiah Hankel
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist
deflect

Join Isaiah as he reveals how PhDs can deflect comfortably when employers push them to negotiate verbally early in the interview

Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah explains why PhDs should practice to negotiate well ahead of time
  • Next, Isaiah reveals what it takes to negotiate
  • Finally, Isaiah describes when PhDs should negotiate and how to deflect 

From This Week’s Show…

Why Should PhDs Use Practice Negotiation Well Ahead


Negotiation is tricky. Orchestrate it well. The most uncomfortable part of negotiating is deflecting the employer’s attempts to get you to zero in on a number before they give you a written offer. There is immense discomfort in deflecting because we haven’t practiced negotiation. PhDs don’t negotiate. We don’t want to play games. 

Negotiation is not a game or a trick. It is a transferable skill, a communication strategy. Prepare for negotiation well ahead. During the course of the interview this stage may come sooner. And then all of a sudden everything becomes urgent. But you really have to go deeper into how the conversation progresses, what the scripts look like? Get comfortable, don’t be surprised. 

So many of us learn very topically to give the response. I will consider any reasonable offer. But get overthrown when the initial deflection is not respected. 

What It Takes To Negotiate

You might have to deflect dozens of times, 30 or 40 different times in a series of conversations during a panel interview. Initial deflection may not always work. Recruiters have responded that they can’t move ahead in the interview without knowing the number. Would you just give in or agree to a number or give a range? Just because you are so terrified that they could withdraw the offer or shut down the entire interview. 

Book learning negotiation is not as effective as practicing and getting comfortable. Behaviorally getting into the situation, having to feel the uncomfortable feelings and going through that over and over again until it becomes okay. That’s what it takes to negotiate. Failing to negotiate proves devastating to both your income and your career. Negotiation is a norm in the industry. You are expected to negotiate. You’re more likely to come across as unqualified, desperate, easy to replace if you don’t negotiate. 

Deal making is a key transferable skill. Those at the top of any company have mastered this skill of networking. Negotiation and deal making are two skills that will drive you to the top of industry. And so as you stay in industry on a long enough timeline, those two skills, they’re the ones that will matter in terms of being promoted. 

When To Negotiate And How To Deflect 

Be ready to deflect prior to having a written offer. Most PhDs erroneously believe that negotiation only comes into play later in the interview. Never bring up salary or concrete numbers until you’ve received the written offer. Know that the entire hiring process involves negotiation. During every interaction with the company, you should be building a case for why you’re the best person for their open position. Increase your perceived value and create leverage for later salary discussions. Be aware that the company will try to negotiate salary with you by giving you a written offer. Any number you provide in this context will hurt you.

You should never negotiate without a written offer because you have no leverage. You should prepare to deflect early attempts. So every attempt without a written offer, you may have to deflect dozens of times to the same person. Deflect, don’t be uncomfortable. Or you will not get your worth. Keep the discussion relaxed and conversational. If you find yourself getting uptight, take a step back mentally and relax. Get back to a calm place. Practice deflecting by answering a question with another question approach. 

Ask questions with curiosity in a conversational way. It puts the impetus on the other person to decide. They’re trying to get numbers and do calculations. Recruiters will ask you about your salary expectations. Deflect by saying I haven’t thought about this much yet. I’m more concerned about learning who I’ll be working with, learning more about the team. If you go right into negotiation, you’re talking about money, it’s going to make you look greedy and weaken your negotiation position. Stay focused on the team. Everything you want to learn. 

** for the full podcast, check out the audio player above.

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